Red’s get most of the attention in Italian wine circles, though there has been a surge in quality in Italy's white (and orange) wines in recent years. If you look further than the nondescript Pinot Grigio from the fields of Veneto, Italy is home to thousands of native grape varieties. They can be difficult to navigate, so we’ve chosen three of our favourites to mix in a case, that span the countries best regions from north to south, and show the characters we love in Italian whites. These are ultimately flavours and feelings like texture, savoriness, dryness, sometime bitterness, saltiness, fragrance and freshness. These three wines have varying amounts of each and we will go in to some detail below.
We have chosen to forgo Pinot Grigio, Soave and Gavi in this pack, though if there is some interest in these, we can source for you at a similar price point.
These wines will suit lunch and dinner tables with oysters, sardines, grilled seafoods, prosciuttos, speck, leg ham and simple pastas. They are a no-brainer to have on hand for whites with a bit more interest, intrigue and food friendliness, but ultimately, to satisfy some thirsts.
Ronco dei Tassi Friulano 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
Ronco de Tassi is a revered producer in the Friuli-Venezia region in Italy’s far north-east, near the border of Slovenia. The region is famous for its cool, rolling hills and production focused on a range of native white varieties, as well as its much loved San Daniele prosciutto.
Ronco de Tassi produce one of the countries most complex Pinot Grigio wines, though here we look at local variety Friuliano. It is from a seven hectare site of 50 year old vines, grown on sandstone. The wine is medium bodied with a lovely dense texture and almost creamy mouthfeel. It has aromas of flowers, spice, white pepper and licorice. A savoury rather than fruity wine, though there is a core of ripe lime and Meyer lemon driving the palate. Raised in stainless steel and old oak barrels, this is about freshness and purity.
Pair with local meats like speck and prosciutto. 91 from Wine Enthusiast and 90 from James Suckling, both Italian wine specialists.
Colli Messari Vermentino 2018, Tusany, Italy
This is a cracking Vermentino from the Montecucco DOCG appellation of Tuscany, from the most important estate of this underrated DOCG. It is also from vineyards grown on sandstone, younger in age (15 to 25 years) but higher in elevation, up to 350 metres. The Melacce vineyards are exposed to generous amounts of sunshine, though are tempered by prevailing sea breezes, and this contributes to the generous but fresh style. They are also farmed organically.
The wine is picked early (late August) to capture vitality and freshness. Flavours are more on the orchard fruit line with crisp apple, pear skin, raw almond, dry herbs and sea-salt. Medium bodied, fresh and delicious. Serve with grilled white meats, grilled seafoods and simple tomato and basil-based pastas.
90 points from Wine Spectator and 91 from Suckling.
Pietradolce Etna Bianco 2019, Sicily, Italy
Further south now to the high slopes of Mt. Etna, the Pietradolce Bianco is produced from local variety Carricante. Carricante is a wine of searing acidity, awesome minerality, enduring age-ability, power and freshness. It is organically farmed from vineyards of northern Etna at elevations of 800m plus. Notice as we’ve traveled further south to the warmer climates of Italy, we’ve also climbed elevation to manage temperature increases.
This style is almost a combination of the first two, with a balance between citrus and orchard fruit flavours, smoke, chalk, almond and florals. It is clearly the saltiest and briny of the three wines, testament to its location by the Mediterranean but also to the volcanic sand soils that it is grown in. For those that like dry Riesling or Chablis, this will be a go-to.
Serve this with oysters, sardines and vegetable-based starters with loads of oil, herbs and salt. 92 points from Wine Enthusiast.
Tom and Dan